The Unfinished Business of Tidying Up

 I love to organize things. Yup, Call me a geek, but it actually brings me joy.  When I first noticed the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo I thought I would be the only one to watch it.  I was wrong. I hear more and more people talking about not just watching it, but binge watching the entire series.  Marie can teach you how to tidy up. I can teach you something perhaps more valuable; how to keep things tidy.

I have a theory that my propensity to alphabetize spices and get stressed out by overflowing email inboxes is genetic.  My Mom used to vacuum twice a day. I never got to sleep late on the weekends because I would wake up to the sound of the vacuum cleaner.  That is being clean and tidy. Sadly, I also fell asleep to the same whirring sound because she vacuumed every night. I tried to reason with her and promised her that neither I nor other family members would tread across the floor in the middle of the night.  I assured her that the vacuum and the rest of the family deserved to sleep in the next day. She did not deny my logic but continued with her routine.

 My nephew inherited it.  He has told me about how he has to clean his kitchen and bathrooms with bleach every day and when company is coming he does this before they arrive and after they leave.  His sister, my niece, tells me she is a clean freak as well and I do not doubt it.

 I recently learned from my sister (second cousin, if you must be technical) that Mom came by it, as we southerners like to say, honestly.  Sister Joyce told me that my grandfather used bleach when he did dishes and he also poured boiling water over the dishes after they had been washed.

My grandfather used bleach in his dishwater and then doused the clean dishes with boiling water.

 I keep a really clean house but I don’t bleach things.  Wanna know a dirty little secret? Before I adopted my furchild a year ago I lived mostly by the five second rule in my kitchen.  If the floor had been cleaned in the past couple of days and a tasty treat happened to fall in the floor I could pick it up, pop it in my mouth and not even think about gagging.  Keep in mind that my floor was in the 99th percentile of clean.

5 second rule!

 Don’t worry if you don’t have tidiness as part of your DNA; it is a skill that can be learned by anyone.  I admire Marie Kondo, the soft spoken Japanese woman, who was smart enough to build herself a tidy empire. I however, won’t adopt all of her practices into my life. I admit that if it isn’t necessary and/or doesn’t spark joy then I need to remove it from my home,  but I draw the line at thanking inanimate objects.

 Do you like the idea of entering your home and having the space look inviting and welcoming?  Wouldn’t it be cool to not have to make excuses for the appearance of your home when someone drops in unannounced?  Do you like the idea of knowing where to find things so that you almost never waste precious time searching for lost or misplaced belongings?   I can teach you how to make the tidiness last.  

 For a majority of people, the new found space that they see once they have completed the tidy process sparks joy. Be aware, it may also sparks a little voice in your brain that pleads, “Buy more stuff”.  I hate to break it to you but shopping is not therapy. (Neither is being tidy but that is harder for me to admit.)

If you don’t need it, Don’t buy it.

 Marie Kondo instructs that clothes are the first thing you need to tidy and I couldn’t agree more.  I have three strategies to keep your closets tidy and even more organized than Marie’s methods.

 First, just as Marie instructs you to do in her show, take everything out of the closet and follow her other steps to decide what to keep and what to give up.  After you finish Marie’s steps clean the floors and shelves in the closet. If you have the time and energy you might even paint the walls while it is empty.

 The next part is huge in regards to keeping the closet tidy. Turn the hangers backwards as you put the clothes back on the rack.  After an item has been worn and laundered, and only then, return the item to the closet with the hanger turned the regular way. After six months or in no more than one year remove all the items that are on hangers that never got turned around.  If you have not worn it in that length of time then there is a 99.9% chance that you will never wear it. Thank the item or don’t but get rid of it.

Turning all the hangers backwards once a year will help you identify the clothes that you no longer wear.

 The next thing is to group your clothes by color and type.  To do this first sort items into categories such short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, skirts, dresses and so on.  Next within each category arrange items by color. When you look into my closet at the far left you will find sleeveless and short sleeved tops.  The furthest to the left are white and as your eyes look down the rack the colors get darker so the the right end of the short sleeved tops group has the black items.  When I am choosing clothes it makes finding a particular item much faster and it makes matching up outfits a breeze. Let’s say I want to wear a favorite print skirt and want to pair it with a yellow or perhaps pink top.  I simply take the skirt on it’s hanger and hold it up to the section of my closet that has those colors and I can very quickly decide which item is the best match. Another advantage is that you will become very aware of what colors are taking over your wardrobe and what colors you might want to introduce when you shop.

 Let’s talk about shopping. I used to treat shopping like a sport where the mentality was that; she with the best bargains, or she with the most shoes or even she with the most decorated trees at Christmas was the winner.  Why? I don’t know other than retailers count on us to keep buying so they change styles of clothes and interiors with increasingly rapid frequency.

 Since entering the second half of life I have given myself permission to not care about trends, I simply like what I like.  I have also been blessed with not getting tired of things quickly. I used to feel sorry for older folks that wore clothes that were “out of style” or had homes that had not been redecorated in years.  Now I get it. If I like a new style, then I may update some things, if I don’t, I won’t. Think of it as a perk of being a card carrying member of AARP (or at least eligible) and part of the Baby-Boomer Generation.  

 Before you go shopping step into you tidy closet and do a quick survey.  There was a time that I owned 15 pairs of black pants. Who needs 15 pairs of black pants?   Ridiculous! It doesn’t matter if it is a bargain if you don’t need it.

 Ms. Kondo encourages you to donate your clothing and other items that no longer spark joy and I agree that all of us need to be charitable. All of us need to make a sincere effort to be more mindful about buying lots of clothes and then donating lots of clothes because this habit is really hard on the planet and it doesn’t help the impoverished as much as you might think.

 Only about 10% of donated clothing is resold.  Most of it ends up in landfills where it takes decade upon decade to breakdown and in many cases the dyes leach out into the soil and groundwater causing further harm to the environment.  

Landfill in Nigeria.
Photo by Ayotunde Oguntoyinbo on Unsplash

 Thrift organizations are getting so much clothing that most items are only kept 30 days before being baled up and sold in bulk.  It is not unusual for donated clothes to eventually make it back to the developing nations where the garments were first constructed by underpaid workers.  This hurts these already struggling areas because it adds to their pollution and causes the price of their good to further plummet. The solution is not to donate more but to buy less.  You can learn more about this at sites like,

 My third suggestion to help keep your closet tidy and to reduce impulse purchases that seldom or in some cases never get worn is to make a new habit.  When you purchase a new piece of clothing hang it up in a visible place such as a hook over your closet door. Leave it there for a few days, tags still connected.  After a few days give it hard look. Do you like as much as you did in the store? Put it on and look in the mirror, does it look as nice on your particular body as you want it to look?  Does it spark joy? If you answered no to any of those questions then fold it up with the receipt of purchase, put it back in the bag and then put it in a place that will remind you to return it the next time you are in the vicinity of the store.  For me that place is the passenger seat of my car since I typically don’t have anyone riding with me. If the clerk asks the reason for the return don’t be embarrassed, just say you changed your mind or as I like to say, “buyer’s remorse”.

  I want to hear from you.  Do you need more ideas for keeping the other areas of you home tidy?    Are you a neat freak with a system that works for you? Spark a little joy by sharing your hints and suggestions with the rest of us by leaving a comment.

Other photos provided by John-Mark Smith, The Creative Exchange and my personal closet.


  1. Rosie still has tons of clothes from when she worked in ministry. Some items haven’t been worn since we moved here 5 years ago. We took a course in decluttering but it did little good. I guess I’ve learned to live with this dilemma.


  2. Oh Sis, now I feel like I must do something about the ungodly mess that all my closets are. Not a happy Camper. I did enjoy reading this XOXO


  3. I have days I want to rid myself of 90% of my stuff. Being writers, we know how it is to have umpteen pieces of paper and notebooks, etc


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